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Ellicottville's Iconic Ski Tree

It's Here to Stay!

Most villages across the United States put up a Christmas Tree to celebrate the holiday season. It’s more tradition than anything else, and Ellicottville was no different. The tree would go up in time for the annual ‘Christmas in Ellicottville’ event, it’d be lit, and … we would go about our regular holiday festivities. It was just another Christmas Tree … until last year. 

The brainchild of John Nelson, the village would soon be blessed with not just another Christmas Tree. It would be a tree made of skis. Immediately, the tree was a massive success. People flocked from around western New York to be mesmerized by the lights, the snow and the fact that it’s made up entirely of skis. 

“John had the idea to do a ski tree years ago, and thought Ellicottville should have the best Christmas Tree in western New York,” said Ellicottville Events owner (and John’s wife) Sam Nelson. “He and Tyler Burns bounced ideas back and forth until they figured something out that might work. They met with Maple Grove Enterprises about making the base and rungs to hold the skis. After all of that, he decided it was time to go for it.”

Ski Trees are iconic in other ski towns. Telluride, in Colorado, has one that is incredibly impressive. The engineering, upkeep and ability to build something out of so many individual pieces is almost as impressive as - again - building a Christmas Tree out of old skis. 

When John and Tyler decided to go through with the idea, they needed help. With Burns being a snowboarder and Nelson being a dualboarder, it’s not like they had a hundred pair of old skis around (for the tree to work best, they had to be old straight skis to fit within the rungs consistently.) They put the word out, and the village responded. Old skis came flooding in, and they began stockpiling. 

Not all was well and good, however. After months of hard work and the tree successfully constructed and placed (with the help of Apex Construction), Nelson was informed that its current location (in front of the 1887 Building) couldn’t be sustainable long-term. The idea of having to say goodbye to the Ski Tree after the overwhelmingly positive response from the public, was one that Nelson knew he couldn’t face.  Thousands of visitors had made their way to the Ski Tree for a photo op over the winter and summer months (including country singer Charlie Daniels). So the mission began to find a new location, and to keep the Ski Tree alive.

“The most unbelievable thing about this entire Ski Tree journey was our Christmas In July fundraiser,” Nelson said. “When we found out the tree needed to be moved or taken down, it galvanized the village. The outpouring of support and generosity of our town blew us away.” 

Organized and executed in under two weeks by Ellicottville Events, Christmas in July (hosted at Madigan’s) raised the amount of money needed to move the tree to its permanent home, on the lawn of the post office. Donations by local contractors to build a permanent concrete base and money raised to maintain it means the iconic Ski Tree isn’t going anywhere. 

“Between the fundraiser and the amount of photos we’ve seen with the tree, we’re so proud of that,” Nelson said. “It’s become a staple of our community and we couldn’t be happier.”